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Chinese Culture to the World


A profound connection to China has always been present in the life of AJ Donnelly’s life ever since he was a young boy. After discovering the Daoism philosophy and building an interest for China’s Martial Arts in his younger years, AJ had no doubt that he had discovered a culture and a place that offered what he needed in his life. Motivated by this idea and by the curiosity of seeing the place that brought him so much inspiration, AJ began his journey in 1999 when he landed in a then mysterious country, unknown to the rest of the world. The place he saw 23 years ago it’s nothing to what he sees now in a more developed and modern China.

AJ Donnelly is originally from Bedford, England. He is an actor, voice actor, and cultural entrepreneur. He is the founder of a company called “Cultural Keys, The Chinese Culture Company”, which offers expats living in or out of China better access, experiences, and understandings of the traditional Chinese culture. After conversing with other expats about how difficult it was to learn about Chinese culture on a deeper level, especially with only a small amount of resources in English, AJ decided to start his company to help fill the curiosity gap of those expats who wanted to have a deeper knowledge of China.


Cultural Keys is set in Beijing and has been around for almost 10 years. They began by only offering martial arts classes both in Beijing and the Shaolin Temple. Now they have added other topics of interest and offer workshops on calligraphy, painting, dough figurine modeling, and other traditional Chinese arts and crafts. As AJ says “we don’t claim to speak for China or the Chinese people but sharing what China means to us, as visitors, what we know and understand, we are helping to address certain misunderstandings about this country. We do that by sharing the history, the culture, places of interest, and more.”


AJ’s company not only attracts expats, but it attracts locals as well, and those that have taken part in their workshops have provided lots of positive feedback. Chinese people are happy to know that foreigners take a special interest in learning about their host country and, and to make it even more special, that two foreigners took the lead to create a company that could reveal the true history of this ancient culture. Cultural keys provides its services to all kinds of audiences. They have served students from international schools up to executives of one of China’s top companies. With the pandemic around, AJ’s company had to adapt to new ways of conducting business, so they have accommodated online modality when necessary as well as face-to-face service.


In the coming years, AJ has many plans for Cultural Keys in terms of growth, marketing, and expansion. One of those plans is to reach more foreign communities in the neighboring provinces of Tianjin and Shijiazhuang in Hebei.

AJ Donnelly has come a long way since his first years in China. He has felt inspired and humbled by the Daoism philosophy, which he began learning about when he still lived in England. AJ has made it possible to be where he is now by conquering his challenges and keeping an open mind and a positive disposition based on the practices of this philosophy. These teachings are very much part of AJ’s daily life and they guide him to live in harmony, fluidity, and compassion. He is also greatly thankful for the support from his wife Nic, whom he met in 2009, and together have worked to bring more meaning and direction into each other’s lives.


And in regards to his acting career, AJ has been enjoying an extensive trajectory in amateur theater, both in England and in China. This includes professional stage performances, TV roles, as well as participation on the big screen. Some of the Chinese productions AJ has taken part in are “Wild Cards”(2016), “Sky Hunters”(2018), “The legend of Kunlun”(2018), and in his most recent major role as a US Army officer, Captain Williams, for the Chinese production Ju Ji Shou (Snipers) which aired in theaters this past February 1st.

AJ Donelly has lived and stayed in China for many years because he has found his life purpose here. He contributes to the community by spreading the knowledge of Chinese culture. The intrinsic relation between Daoism and Taichi has shaped the way he sees life as well as the way he faces the challenges of everyday life. China is the home that AJ dreamed of many years ago. AJ and Nic are in the place that makes them happy and they will continue to work to make a difference and to inspire others in search of their dreams.


If you wish to learn more about AJ's work and company you can follow him via his social media.

Facebook: CulturalKeysChina

Instagram: CulturalKeys

YouTube: CulturalKeys

WeChat: CulturalKeysCN

AJ's acting work: ajdonnelly.com


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